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Image: Youtube

Because our age puts my husband and me in a high-risk category for Covid-19 and because I know the pandemic won’t last forever, I’m going to try the doctor’s grocery-disinfecting techniques from the 13-minute video below. It’s a lot of work and most people will think it’s nuts. But there are some good tips here. And you know, unless you are a health-care worker or suddenly homeschooling, you do have time.

Among the easier tips: leaving nonperishables in the garage or on the porch for the three days it takes for the contagion to dissipate; buy only hot takeout and reheat it in the microwave or stove; toss the outer cereal box and just keep the inner liner; dump bread into a container you can seal and throw out the bread bag.

Most people could manage that, I think.

Meanwhile, I confess that I am washing bananas now, but I’m not yet at the doctor’s 20-second requirement. At first my husband said, “Wash bananas? They have their own skin and you throw it out.” But then he realized we weren’t talking about washing because you are going to eat the banana but because the outside of anything that unknown people have touched can spread germs around your house.

But he still wasn’t really on board. Then he read a New York Times article by infectious disease expert Michael T. Osterholm, here, called “It’s Too Late to Avoid Disaster, But There Are Still Things We Can Do” (!) and decided maybe we do have to up our game. We’re on our own. Watch the video, and let me know what you think.

On a more cheerful note, whenever I can get technology to work, it’s been a pretty great boon. We had a four-way chat with our kids on FaceTime yesterday that was fun and funny, and today I go online with What’s App or Skype to help an Afghan asylum seeker with her grad school application.

Hang in, Folks. This won’t last forever.

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Photo: Tom Gralish / Inquirer Staff Photographer
A friend wrote on Facebook about listening to a Covid-19 Philadelphia Orchestra concert March 12.

At first when I read her Facebook post, I thought a friend I’ve known since I was in nursery school had gotten inside the hall to hear this concert. But I see the staff kicked almost everyone out. I guess she listened on the radio.

Hannah posted: “I was touched by the Philadelphia Orchestra playing a concert to an empty hall on Thursday. They did Beethoven’s 6th, a good choice for this strange time in our history. The acoustic was different, of course, and lent a crispness to the sound. It was their last performance until whenever. Available for streaming on WRTI. Thanks, orchestra!”

Looking up more info, I found an article by David Patrick Stearns at the Inquirer.

“The Philadelphia Orchestra was never meant for an audience of one — or few. That’s why the Philadelphia Orchestra’s audience-less Thursday concert felt like a parallel universe.

“You had the familiar orchestra musicians in full concert dress, music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and the beloved Beethoven Symphonies Nos. 5 and 6. Except different. On Thursday afternoon, the Philadelphia Orchestra canceled all of its events through March 23. ….

“The concert’s Plan B, which fell into place that same day, had the performance going forward to a nearly empty house, streamed on the orchestra’s website (though a snafu put it in Facebook Live) and recorded for WRTI radio broadcasts. …

“For those who were there, it was confounding to have the orchestra standing to receive phantom applause that wasn’t there. This was not a dress rehearsal, but the real deal. And it was also a reminder of the gravity of the situation.

“The atmosphere, though, was hardly grave. … For all of its magisterial image, the Philadelphia Orchestra isn’t easily unnerved, thanks to history of foreign touring under highly changeable circumstances. …

“Of all the composers, it’s Beethoven who has been there for the public through centuries of hardship, Nézet-Séguin said in a spoken introduction to the concert: ‘And we’re still inspired.’

“ ‘We rehearsed the program … we were gearing up to play it,’ first associate concertmaster Juliette Kang told me at intermission after playing Beethoven’s 5th.
‘We had to play it. It was an artistic imperative from the inside,’ Kang said. ‘The emotional whirlwind everybody’s in, it came through in the piece. It did for me. I could feel that struggle in the Beethoven.’

‘Though the hall was empty, I could feel trembling inside of me,’ said concertmaster David Kim. …

“Internet chatter praised the orchestra for maintaining its presence — along with criticisms that the musicians were at risk just from being together. There’s an edge of covert panic out there, and you can almost feel the struggle between people’s sense of hope and fear.

“On the hope front … On Twitter, pianist Igor Levit (@igorpianist) vowed to stream performance videos from his home every day at 7 p.m. Central European Time. The Berlin Philharmonic played a streamed concert from an audience-less hall on Thursday afternoon, including Berio’s Sinfonia, whose choral contingent embeds the words ‘Martin Luther King’ into the orchestral texture. …

“In Philadelphia [Beethoven’s Fifth] was not the kind of end-of-the-world Beethoven heard from European radio archives when empires were crumbling during World War II. Nor was there the hopelessness felt at the Philadelphia Orchestra’s post 9/11 concert at the Mann Center in 2001.

“The current adversary is an invisible virus, not a fallen hero or an act of war. Thursday’s concert had exceptional momentum, as if to say, ‘We will get through this.’

“Beethoven’s usually genial Symphony No. 6 (‘Pastoral’) had higher peaks of tension and release than usual, with an aggression in the third-movement peasant dances that led more logically than usual into the storm scene that followed — as if Nézet-Séguin conducted it as an opera without words.” More from the Inquirer critic here.

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Photo: Reuters/Guglielmo Mangiapane
Italy formally recognizes that newspapers are essential services.

The demise of newsprint has been exaggerated. Newspapers are still needed. Not only did one in Australia — partly as a joke — print some blank pages with dotted lines for making your own toilet paper, but in Italy newspapers have now been characterized as “essential” services.

Luiz Romero reports at Quartz: “As it became increasingly clear earlier this week that the Italian government would announce even more stringent measures to combat coronavirus, in a country that already faces extraordinary restrictions, a debate began to brew over what should be left open and what should be forced to closed. Places that sell food and medicine would have to keep functioning, but what about the edicole—the small shops that sell newspapers and magazines, and that still exist in the thousands in Italy?

“On Wednesday (March 11), Carlo Verdelli, the director of Repubblica, one of the two largest newspapers in the country, alongside Corriere, published a note arguing that newsstands should be added to the list of essential services that was being prepared by the government. …

“Here, like everywhere else, newsstands are disappearing. They went from 18,400 to 14,300 during the 2010s—a number that  includes those that also sell souvenirs for tourists. Excluding them, the real number of newsstands in Italy is estimated to be around 5,000. Still, Italians like to read newspapers. Almost a third of the population gets its daily news in print. …

“After some debate, and as the number of cases continued to spike, the government finally took a decision. Everything had to close except what it deemed essential services—food stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, and factories. … Newsstands were also allowed to keep going. …

“In Milan, newspaper vendors are proud of what they do. Rosi Varezza, who operates a small but busy newsstand, explained that papers are essential for elderly readers, who are most at risk from the outbreak. Clients buy newspapers for habit, but also to get information they deem more trustworthy; to go deep into subjects they consider important; and to hear the news delivered from specific voices—columnists that have informed them for decades. …

“Newsstands are even registering a small bump in sales. That was clear in Milan. In a busier newsstand, near a major shopping street here, I had to wait to pay for the newspaper. And when my turn came, I had to ask my questions quickly. The newsagent was impatient, answering with short sentences, and insistently looking over my shoulder. A line was forming.” More at Quartz, here.

In my own case, I have always read articles more deeply if they are in print. And in my semi-isolation, I look forward to the paper delivery every day and read more sections than usual. You?

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Art: Wei Man Kow

While many of us feel crushed under the weight of stories about Covid-19, cartoonists have been addressing the coronavirus in their own way, mostly trying to be helpful.

Jason Li writes at Hyperallergic, “No corner of the globe experiences the epidemic in quite the same way. … Cartoonists and illustrators have taken to the public squares of social media to express statements of solidarity, share experiences (and grievances), and laugh a little. [We’ve] collected our favorite works from around the world — taking care to include as many perspectives and geographies as we could, while still centering those in China, who remain most impacted by the virus. …

“[One] viral illustration by momo shows that Wuhan, ground zero of the epidemic, carries the support of everyone else in China. Wuhan is represented by a caricature of its famous food, hot dry noodle, while those cheering them on are drawn as foods from other regions of China.

“On a gentler note, the 3×3 comic [by] Wang XX is a fantastic encapsulation of the tenderness and care that people in China are feeling for one another during this calamitous period. In it, a seal, octopus, walrus and mouse help each other don their face masks and then hug it out. …

“[Another] comic about the shortages in Hong Kong by Ah To shows a person keeping toilet paper them in their safe along with their gold bars and surgical masks. …

“Many in and outside of China criticize its authorities for handling the crisis poorly and for muffling early warnings from medical experts. [A] mini-comic by A ee mi in Taiwan weaves a fantastical yet blunt critique of China’s healthcare system. In it, a coronavirus carrier is sent home without proper treatment, spreading the virus to their friends and community.

“While many airlines have suspended flights to China, the authorities in Hong Kong, which shares both land and sea borders with Mainland China, have staunchly refused to close off its borders. This has left its citizens incredibly anxious and angry. [Toballkidrawing] aptly depicts how the issue is viewed in Hong Kong — that the government is handing out a free pass for the virus to move in. …

“One genre of responses that’s been common across the globe is illustrated health advice. Some are comedic, some pithy, but the most popular are detailed and instructional. The above example by Wei Man Kow in Singapore was an unexpected hit and was subsequently translated into seven different languages by various strangers on the internet. (The artist has also made the instructional available for free download, including coloring book versions in Chinese and English.) Meanwhile, veteran cartoonist Sonny Liew (also in Singapore) teamed up with local doctors to put out [a] calming, animal-themed strip combating paranoia and disinformation.

“The breadth of these illustrated responses mirrors the myriad lived realities of the coronavirus. While none will argue that the virus is not a global epidemic or phenomenon, few agree on how serious the problem is, and people around the world are experiencing and interpreting its impact in vastly different ways. ”

Check out all these comics and more at Hyperallergic, here. If you have seen other good cartoons on this topic, please link to them in comments.

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